A look back at a South Bay orphanage that took in Asian children

At the end of a tree-lined Los Gatos street sits an old, worn, wooden arch, that’s also a doorway to Silicon Valley history.

"This is not only meaningful for us, it’s meaningful for the Chinese community," said Janet Chang. "It’s also significant for Los Gatos."

The 73-year-old Chang is part of special sorority. She’s a former resident of the Ming Quong Home – an orphanage that once sat on this site.

Today, the 13-acre area is office space for "Uplift Family Services," which aids abused and neglected children.

"I think it’s an important part of our history. We try to maintain links to our own past. But also as a way to allow these woman to maintain contact with each other," said Darren DeMonsi, Uplift’s director of development.

Donaldina Cameron opened the Ming Quong Home in Los Gatos in 1936, at a time when few if any places provided services for Asian orphans.

"(It’s) an example of an early organization that really left a very significant mark," said historian Amy Long.

In the ensuing decades, the home welcomed thousands of Asian children through its iconic arch.

"For many of all of us, it was the entry to a safe place," said Chang.

She first stepped onto campus as a sharp-tongued 12-year-old, who’s Merchant Marine father was usually deployed. And who’s overwhelmed mom need help dealing with her daughter’s penchant for throwing the first punch in schoolyard fights.

"If I had been sent to juvenile hall, it is no doubt that I would be either dead or in jail," said Chang.

To the contrary, the troubled middle child of five took to regimented life at Ming Quong. In two years, the seeds of life-long change sprouted.

"What it taught me was, there’s a whole new world out there, besides what I was experiencing in my community. And I wanted something different," she said.

Experts said years welcoming of young Asian girls, then boys, helped the home influence the surrounding Silicon Valley community.

"It is an example of this town, they did wrap their arms around this orphanage and these girls," said Long. "They weren’t just isolated in buildings, shut off from the community. They were integrated into the town."

As time marches on, the number living Ming Quong "sisters" declines. They’re fund-raising to restore the arch, so future generations will know the safe haven for Asians once offered on the other side.

"It continues the story for other people to know that, what (are) the possibilities," said Chang.

If you’d like to make a tax-deductible contribution to Uplift Family Services’ ongoing efforts to restore the Ming Quong arch, please visit https://upliftfs.org/get-involved/donate/. Please put "Ming Quong Arch" in the Comment Box. You can also mail a contribution to:

Uplift Family Services

Fund Development Dept.

499 Loma Alto Ave.

Los Gatos, CA 95030